2017

Ahhh, 2017. I don’t quite know where to begin! In a world of Brexit talks and Trump’s tweets, music lead the way for unity. From the tragic terror attack at the Manchester Arena after the Ariana Grande concert in May, which sparked international unity and created the “One Love Manchester” movement, to the rise in musicians speaking out about ‘taboo’ subjects, it really has been a big year for artists and fans alike. Ed Sheeran rewrote the chart rules (literally) and couldn’t be escaped and there were plenty of leading ladies who made their way firmly into the top spots this year too, with Dua Lipa becoming the first female British solo artist to top the charts with her single ‘New Rules’ since Adele in 2015. Oh, and there was a Glass Animals inspired pineapple ban at Reading and Leeds Festival.

Personally, I’ve had my ups and downs this year. Musically it’s been absolutely incredible though! I muddled my way through A-Level exams- with the help, exclusively, of Alt-J- passed my driving test and somehow ended up touring the UK for two months, in what was the most incredible and exciting experience of my life so far. I was incredibly lucky this year to see 167 different live music sets (through a mixture of festival sets, concerts, support acts etc), go to two weekend festivals, three day festivals and 12 concerts (excluding the many Happy Mondays gigs I saw and including four incredible Banquet Record shows).

Here are three of my biggest musical highlights:

1) I got to see Paramore play on my 18th Birthday. Paramore are my favourite band ever, and they have been for the last goodness knows how long. Somehow, after weeks of trying, I managed to get tickets to the sold out gig, whilst sat on the bus with a massive stomach ache (the things you remember, eh?). The day itself was absolutely incredible and the atmosphere was truly buzzing. They played a venue far smaller than they’re capable of, which made it feel really intimate, and the crowd sang along- loudly- word for word. It felt like the most triumphant welcome back for the band and made my birthday the best yet.

2) I had my mind sufficiently blown by Haim at Reading Festival. This year was my fourth Reading Festival and somehow I ended up winning VIP tickets. I’ve been going for years and have been lucky enough to see some of the most exciting live sets, but nothing else has been as awe-inspiring as Haim’s closing set on the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage this year. The band played what felt like the quickest, most fun set ever, with dancing interludes, an abundance of crowd interaction and the most incredible drumming to close the set- not to mention Este’s bass face! It was the first time I’d seen the trio and it definitely won’t be my last.

3) By far the biggest highlight of the year was Lorde’s Glastonbury debut. In fact, in many ways it ruined my Glastonbury as everything else didn’t seem quite as good after that. In my eyes, she could’ve headlined. Lorde played the Other Stage on the one week “birthday” of Melodrama’s release. She opened by teasing the crowd with an orchestral version of ‘Green Light’, before playing a mixture of tracks from her both her albums.  The highlight of the set for me though was ‘The Louvre’, which she introduced by talking about “crushes” and the “rush” you get from them. She then sat on the side of the stage- to be closer to the fans- and sang ‘Liability’, which she told the audience was about “not feeling as though you’re good enough”. The set felt special. It was a real spectacle, with dancers in tilting glass boxes and huge graphics projected onto large screens, but one which didn’t feel too brash or gimmicky. It was absolutely breathtaking.

In other news, it was a year of politics too, with the line between artist and political stance becoming increasingly blurred. From snap elections to “youthquakes” to “OOOOHHH JEREMY COOOORBYNNN” being shouted at almost every music event this year, it’s been an exciting year of political unrest. This, along with other global events (Trump, climate change etc), has inspired a wave of new music, with the likes of VANT and Declan McKenna leading the way. It’s been exciting to follow. It would be crazy not to mention the thousands of people who flocked to see Jeremy Corbyn speak at Glastonbury Festival. It felt like some sort of revolution was stirring.

By far the most exciting thing I’ve done this year is tour for a couple of months with the Happy Mondays selling their merchandise. I got to meet and work with some of the most incredible, creative and inspiring people ever, which was absolutely crazy. It was a brilliant experience. As well as this, I got to see a lot of the country and visit a whole load of exciting venues, in cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. I also got to see first hand how hard the security guards work in order to keep everyone safe and that, in itself, deserves some credit.

This year I listened to A LOT of Declan McKenna. I started the year off by listening- like every other person on Earth- to a tonne of Ed Sheeran. He was simultaneously the only person I wanted to listen to and the last person I wanted to listen to. It sounds dramatic, but no one could escape Sheeran’s grasp… I distinctly remember working one Saturday morning and listening to his latest album, Divide, on repeat for four and a half hours. I also kick started the year with a bit of Sundara Karma and Blaenavon, both of which released triumphant debut albums this year. Lorde soundtracked my summer though, along with Anne-Marie, Little Mix, Clean Bandit, Haim, Glass Animals and Dua Lipa. In the Autumn I was obsessed by Wolf Alice, Blondie and Marika Hackman, whose album I’m Not Your Man was one of the best released this year. Recently I’ve been loving Rex Orange County’s “Best Friend” and a whole load of other up and coming artists. I’m so excited to see what 2018 brings for them.

So, what’s to come? This blog is going to undertake a big makeover at some point. I’ve got SO much planned, which I’m really excited to share. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of up and coming artists release their debut albums, to going to many festivals and concerts and to seeing what the year brings in terms of comebacks.

Thank you for reading this blog. I know I’ve not been so good at blogging over the last couple of months, but I’m going to change that.

 

 

 

Advertisements
2017

Album of the Year 2017

2017  was a year which saw the release of many massive albums, many of which challenged and changed the way we view music. The year was dominated by huge chart topping albums by globally recognised artists, like Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, many of which opened up the listener to a more intimate, sensitive side of the artist, by tackling so-called ‘taboo’ topics, such as mental health. There was also the return of politically loaded records, which were birthed from the political and social upheaval of the last few years, and we saw a whole host of women take the reins in the album charts with hugely deserved hit albums. It’s no surprise this year’s top five albums were the hardest to choose yet.

Here’s my top five:

5) DUMB BLOOD– VANT

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I heard VANT’s debut album, DUMB BLOOD, for the first time all the way back in February. Pre-release the album already boasted a plethora of successful, punchy statement singles, including ‘FLY-BY ALIEN’, ‘PARKING LOT’ and ‘KARMA SEEKER’. The album- which was released on the hugely successful and influential major record label Parlophone– takes on current world events (such as war and climate change), the band’s shared frustrations about God and peace and, crucially, voices a ‘lost’ generation through a major platform. The album itself has an almost revolutionary punk feel, whilst remaining true to its indie-rock, guitar roots. It feels like a statement. Sadly, this will be the last album from the London based band, as they announced their indefinite hiatus later on in the year, but this is definitely one of the greatest things to have come out of 2017.

4) Visions of a Life– Wolf Alice

The second album is often said to be a tricky one, especially when your debut album gained you a Mercury Prize nomination and a Grammy nod, but Wolf Alice returned blasé about any of that. The album’s raucous lead single, ‘Yuk Foo’, thoroughly cemented their return, with its shouted lyrics and self-assured sentiment. Wolf Alice finally seemed comfortable with their sound, and didn’t really care if you didn’t. They went onto release the far from cheesy love song ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ and effortlessly cool ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ before the album’s full release, which exemplified their versatility. Their sound felt more sophisticated and polished than ever before, yet as experimental as ever. Songs like ‘Formidable Cool’, ‘Planet Hunter’ and ‘Space and Time’, which shows glimmer of a 1980s Blondie within it, are stand alone hits, which sit nicely within their already brilliant back catalogue too.

3) After Laughter– Paramore

I don’t think many people were expecting Paramore’s return so soon. The band had lost bassist Jeremy Davis, were caught in the midst of a fierce legal battle and lead singer Hayley Williams had been going through hard times of her own. But right from the heart of the flames, rose an After Laughter shaped Phoenix, which couldn’t have been any more triumphant. Ex-drummer Zac Farro rejoined the band and they managed to put together a bold 12 track album- produced by guitarist Taylor York and previous collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen. The lead single ‘Hard Times’ was a huge upbeat, 80s influenced, guilt free ‘pop’ song- a far cry from the days of Riot! and All We Know if Falling. So what though? The album is mostly upbeat, but outlines the struggles of the last few years, of love and loss, of mental health struggles and the strain of fame, with a melancholic undertone. It feels intimate and comfortable, as opposed to the experimental nature of 2013’s self-titled sensation, Paramore. Songs like ‘Caught in the Middle’, ‘Rose-Coloured Boy’ and ‘Fake Happy’ are songs you want to belt out in the car, in the shower, at huge sold-out concerts. Music can unite people and I think this album brought the band closer to the fans. Paramore have really regenerated themselves in a way which sees them bare all to the listener. It would’ve been very easy for Paramore to give up and yet from the turmoil came this gem of an album.

2) What Do You Think About The Car? -Declan McKenna

There aren’t many 18 year olds who can say they’ve put out a top 20 album, played some of the world’s biggest festivals and have already been recognised for their incredible success, but Declan McKenna has certainly achieved all those things. What Do You Think About The Car? is one of the year’s most thought provoking albums. It brings up questions of world politics and challenges ideas of society through McKenna’s cleverly written, witty lyrics. The debut album features previously released singles, including the FIFA 2014 World Cup corruption inspired ‘Brazil’, ‘Isombard’, where McKenna imagines the narrative of a right wing, ‘Fox News’ style character, and ‘Paracetamol’, which focuses on the representation of transgender people in the media, as well as exciting new tracks, such as ‘Why Do You Feel So Down?’ and ‘Listen to Your Friends’, which features a cleverly written bridge. He broaches subjects with a concise sensitivity, which questions the absurdity of the world we live in. It’s very refreshing to hear. The references are often subtle, so the songs can be enjoyed plainly as good, exciting indie-rock too. Declan Mckenna seems to be leading the way in up and coming music and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes from his success.

1) Melodrama– Lorde

Each year there seems to be an album so clearly above any other album released that year, last year it was The 1975’s cinematic second album and this year it’s Lorde’s stunning Melodrama.

When Lorde released her debut album, Pure Heroine, she was 16 years old. She sang of love and lust, as well as the struggles of being a teenager who was ‘different’. She sang with a maturity which seemed far beyond her years, in a style that crossed genres and was championed by the likes of David Bowie. The album- and its hit single ‘Royals’- won the New Zealand born singer two Grammy’s, out of four nominations. So, where do you go from there?

Lorde returned early last year, off the back of her first major heartbreak, with the album’s lead single ‘Green Light’. The song went on to be one of the summer’s biggest releases, with its gloriously feel good, upbeat dance vibe and its infectiously catchy, in-part nonsensical- or rather metaphorical- lyrics. The song created a huge buzz for the new album.

The highly anticipated Melodrama was released on June 16th 2017 in the UK and I remember rushing out to buy it the next day. We played it for the first time in the car, whilst driving down country lanes on a hot and sunny summer afternoon, and I remember feeling as though the album was special. The album opens up with ‘Green Light’, but takes us on a creative vision and artistic journey into the minds of both Lorde and her collaborator/producer Jack Antonoff (who has also worked with Taylor Swift and Pink this year). It’s an album which demands to be heard in full. It commands the respect of vinyl, a format on which it is due to be released on early next year, whilst still allowing the listener to dip in to it for a quick fix. The lyrics seem more mature than that on Pure Heroine, as if she has had to grow up over the last few years, literally in age and through the experiences she has had. They centre on heartbreak and loss, as well as growing up on the whole. Notably, ‘The Louvre’ is the album’s obvious stand out. Lorde manages to encapsulate a feeling of intense infatuation, which many can relate to, through a doting love song. The lyrics “but we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in The Louvre, down the back, but who cares still the Louvre” are, by far, the greatest of 2017. ‘Liability’ is also extremely poignant. It focuses on self-image and introspection, which is incredibly intimate in itself. Lorde seems to focus on how she feels the world around her sees her and how she herself fits into it, whilst laying out the flaws she finds within herself. She releases her self-worth, as the song is reprised later on in the album. We grow up with her. In addition, ‘Writer in the Dark’ has an incredible undertone of Kate Bush within it, whilst the use of samples in ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ seems to add another dimension to the album.

Melodrama is a masterpiece.

 

Here it seems obvious to mention- despite just falling short of my top five- Ed Sheeran’s third album Divide. Any album which can hoard the top 16 of the UK singles charts (yes, that’s every single song on the album, including the deluxe bonus tracks), go double platinum immediately and outsell any other album in its first week ever, outselling the combined next 500 most popular albums that week, deserves some credit. The album- and Sheeran himself- is extraordinarily clever. There’s a song on there for every type of music fan- from dance to rap to ballads to pure pop. You literally cannot escape ‘Shape of You’ and I guarantee you that once it’s played you’ll have its catchy chorus and hook lingering in your head for hours.

Other artists to narrowly miss out on the top five were Blaenavon’s debut That’s Your Lot, Sundara Karma’s Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect, Marika Hackman’s I’m Not Your Man, Stormzy’s Gang Signs and Prayer, Will Joseph Cook’s Sweet Dreamer, Superfood’s Bambino, Dua Lipa’s self titled debut, Dua Lipa, amongst others.

In 2018, I’m looking forward to album releases by Fickle Friends, The Vaccines, The Wombats, The 1975 (with Music For Cars), and Arctic Monkeys. I’m saying Arctic Monkeys will resurface between September and November… Unless they’re feeling friendly and want to headline a summer festival- then they’ll be back by May! Who know’s what’ll make it onto this list in the next year, but I do know that I’m excited about what’s to come.

Album of the Year 2017

November 2017 and December 2017- What I’m Listening To

Apologies… It’s been an absolute age since I last wrote a blog post, but what an exciting few months it has been. For the last two months I’ve been doing the merchandise on tour for the legendary late 80s/90s Manchester band the Happy Mondays and it’s been the most incredible experience ever. However, it has been time consuming and full on, so I’ve neglected the blog a bit. I’m back now though- and more inspired and excited about music than ever!

This post is going to feature two playlists, so I can catch you up a bit on what’s been going on…

So, November. Quick round up. The Wombats are back and releasing new music (“Turn” and “Lemon in a Knife Fight” are an exciting taste of what’s to come in 2018),  The Vaccines are teasing an immanent new album and the 2018 festival season is shaping up to be huge. My playlist includes Rex Orange County’s ‘Best Friend’, which I absolutely adore, Noel Gallagher’s latest scissor-tastic single ‘Holy Mountain’, E^ST, Tidal Waves and The Charlatans, as I’ve just finished watching E4’s My Mad Fat Diary, for which the music is heavily influenced by the music of the 90s.

December has been a bit more hazy! The festival announcements keep coming- the most notably exciting so far has got to be the one day Finsbury Park event, Community Festival. I, however, spent the month over indulging in glorious, guilt free pop music, with Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ (not the Beyoncé version though) and Taylor Swift’s ‘Gorgeous’ on repeat.  Yes, you read that right (and I’m not even sorry).  There’s even Elbow, who seem to have soundtracked what I’ve managed to squeeze in of Christmas over the last month, with their cover of The Beatles ‘Golden Slumber’. There’s a couple of new tracks from Peace and The Wombats and a large helping of the Happy Mondays, who I’ve fortunately managed to catch countless times over the last month.

New year means new music, Paramore at the O2, more festival announcements and the start of something new- hopefully!

https://open.spotify.com/user/undercovermixtape/playlist/3D3s48RSCYP8ZLy3sXRSoQ

November 2017 and December 2017- What I’m Listening To

October 2017- What I’m Listening To

October was a big month.

October saw a reckless terror attack on innocent music goers in the US, the release of a Wolf Alice tour based Michael Winterbottom film and a plethora of tour dates released by The Streets. There was Liam Gallagher selling out a huge 2018 Finsbury Park gig in minutes, the dawn of an all new All Points East festival and dates released for the next Bestival and Glastonbury Festival. There was even promises of new music from The Wombats, Saint Raymond and the news of V Festival changing its household name.

But the biggest news of all, or at least for me, was that the brilliant VANT were splitting up. In the last year they’ve released an absolutely incredible and refreshing debut album and toured constantly. I’ve championed the band for the last year and they made it onto my ‘ones to watch in 2017’ list. The band stood for something big and exciting- revolutionary. They voiced a generation via a big platform through a major record label, whilst still keeping in touch with fans. The news was shocking and unexpected, but brought information about a new EP and a short farewell tour. I’ll definitely miss the band, but their short success is definitely something to be proud of. Long live VANT.

This month I’ve been listening to a lot of Loyle Carner, Wolf Alice and Lorde. I can’t get enough of up and coming artists including Superorganism and their explosive single ‘Something for your M.I.N.D’, Cassia and Pale Waves.

I discovered the incredibly talented Marika Hackman. I have my mind blown by music often, but discovering Marika Hackman was one of the best things to have happened over the last few months, having seen her play at Reading earlier this year. I’ve had I’m Not Your Man on repeat for the last month and I can’t get enough of it. The indie-folk singer sings effortless cool, calm and collected songs, with somewhat dark, twisted lyrics deep rooted with wit and humour. She’s absolutely brilliant and I urge everyone to have a listen. I recommend you start with ‘Boyfriend’.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Blondie. ‘Rapture’ is my power song and gets me prepped for any difficult situation. Its been a bus journey staple.

 

October 2017- What I’m Listening To

Lorde, The Brighton Centre (30/09/2017)

Lorde brought stunning vocals, spectacular visuals, dancers and Melodrama (in all sense of the word) to The Brighton Centre on the 30th September 2017. She was supported by up and coming artist singer/songwriter Khalid, who won over the sold-out audience with his soulful songs.

Let’s talk about her UK tour as an artistic extension of her latest album, Melodrama, which was released in June this year. Over the summer, Lorde brought Melodrama to festivals globally with dancers in huge tilting glass boxes, orchestras and a large screen showing images sympathetically changing with the songs. It was emotional, moving, and, above all, a real spectacle, which launched Lorde into the big game. I was hoping her UK tour would be different and that, again, she would push production to the limits. She did. Between sets an old TV set was wheeled onto the stage and placed on the side of the stage. The centre of the stage was adorned by hand-drawn neon lights- of astronauts and flowers, their changing broke up the set, as if different acts of a play-  and crowned by a neon sign saying ‘Melodrama’. Lorde herself brought out captivating dancers, had costume changes and gave her vocals to poetic interludes streamed through the old television paired with fascinating visuals throughout the set. It felt like an experience. As if an artistic expression, as opposed to just a pop concert.

Lorde opened with ‘Magnets’, a collaboration she did with British DJ duo Disclosure, which seamlessly flowed into ‘Tennis Court’, from her first album Pure Heroine, and then a plethora of new songs, including ‘The Louvre’, ‘Hard Feelings’ and ‘Sober’, which told the story of youth, fame and broken hearts. It felt as if you were on a journey with her.

The set was sewn together with anecdotes handed out to the crowd as if we were friends of hers. It felt intimate. The highlight of the set was definitely when she played ‘Liability’, closely followed by ‘Liability (Reprise)’. Lorde offered the story of the song to adoring fans and how she had once felt “too much” and a bit lost- perhaps something audience members could relate to. It felt extraordinarily vulnerable, but showed a crucial connection to the audience. This was exemplified further when she jumped into the crowd and sung to members of the crowd from the barrier.

Lorde’s unique vocals lend themselves to many songs. On this tour she put her spin ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins, which she had covered in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge days earlier. This felt refreshing and broke up the set, whilst still feeling like Lorde. It was exciting to see Lorde take on such an iconic, ambitious song.

The New Zealand born singer brought the set to a close with her breakthrough track, ‘Royals’, followed by ‘Perfect Places’, ‘Team’ and the sensational ‘Green Light’, which brought a gleeful dance party to the Brighton Centre. The crowd- and Lorde herself- danced under a storm of star confetti and the stage went dark.

Confused as to whether or not that was the end audience members began to stir and many began screaming for more. After a few minutes a sampler was placed onto the stage and Lorde- this time on her own, without dancers, her band or huge production- resurfaced from side of stage. She played Loveless under a spotlight on the sampler and left the stage to a roar of applause. It was definitely a thought-provoking ending, with the words ‘L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S Generation’ fading out the set. Was it a lasting statement on the modern way of life, of love?

Lorde’s set was triumphant, bold and ambitious. It felt like a stage show almost. She always manages to captivate a concert on a level of intimacy, of audience interest, with artistic license. She treats shows as a way of expressing herself, expressing art, expressing the way she wants her music to be perceived and the music makes sense within this context. Having said this, if metaphorical, artsy statements aren’t for you, it was genuinely a refreshing live music experience and all round brilliant pop-concert (although that statement feels crudely lost within this context).

Lorde, The Brighton Centre (30/09/2017)

September 2017- What I’ve Been Listening To

This year’s Mercury Prize awards took place on the 14th September 2017 at The Eventim Apollo in London. Amongst this year’s nominated ‘album of the year’ contenders there’s the likes of Glass Animals, Blossoms, Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner. The list includes seven debut albums and five albums by artists from South London- that’s just under half of all the nominees. This year’s Mercury Prize was awarded to Sampha, for his stunning debut album Process. The South London singer won £25,000 alongside the award.

Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival have announced the first 50 acts performing at the festival. Ten Tonnes, King Nun, The Orielles, Stereo Honey, Feet, Sam Fender and Dan Stock are amongst the first 50 to be announced, with many more up and coming artists still to be announced. The 50 acts will play in bars and clubs across London from the 21st-23rd November.

Bedford born Tom Grennan has announced a huge UK tour alongside an album announcement. The album Lighting Matches is due to be released on the 9th March next year. It includes the latest single ‘Royal Highness’, ‘Praying’ and ‘Something in the Water’. Grennan is set to tour the album in March next year.

Noel Gallagher (and his High Flying Birds) have also announced a new album, called Who Built The Moon?, which is due for release later this year. Allegedly the album is inspired by French Psychadelic pop, which sounds fascinating.  The album is a collaboration between Gallagher and David Holmes and is set to feature some iconic musicians, such as Paul Weller and Johnny Marr. The announcement came with details of a new single, ‘Holy Mountain’, which is released on October 9th. The news didn’t stop there, Gallagher also announced a whole host of 2018 UK tour dates, including a huge show at London’s SSE Arena.

Jake Bugg is expanding his 2018 acoustic tour in support of his latest album. Bugg has announced dates in Brighton and London, amongst others, in ‘intimate’ venues which are set to make a spectacle of his solo show.

In other news, the BBC are bringing music back onto prime time TV- finally! Yes, we have Jools Holland, which is absolutely massive in terms of breaking new artists and showcasing some of the most uniquely talented artists from across the world, but the new show Sounds Like Friday Night is set to reach a broader audience. The programme, which will air on Friday nights, will be presented by Radio 1’s Greg James and Dotty. It will air for the first time on the 27th October and will feature a different artist as a host each week. On the first episode Jason Deurlo will co-host. The show is set to show live performances from successful bands and artists and also show sketches featuring some famous faces too. I’m looking forward to it because I think it’ll be interesting to see how the BBC are attempting to bring music back onto television, which is something we’re missing.

This month’s playlist features loads of Haim and Glass Animals, who I have been loving since Reading Festival last month (you can check out my review of it here). It also features songs from Superfood’s absolutely massive new album, Bambino, which was also released this month, as well as tracks from Ten Tonnes, Khalid, Pale Waves and Lorde. There’s a few tracks from Wolf Alice’s stunning second album thrown in too.

Next month I can’t wait to see Declan McKenna on his upcoming UK tour and I can’t wait to celebrate BBC Introducing’s 10 year anniversary with them at the O2 Brixton Academy.

 

September 2017- What I’ve Been Listening To

Jake Bugg, All Saints Church for Banquet Records, 31/08/2017 (Live Review)

Just hours before his fourth album- Hearts That Strain– was released, Jake Bugg played two very special album release shows, for Kingston’s Banquet Records, in the heavenly surroundings of the All Saints Church.

Picture this, an ornate church filled with beautifully and carefully crafted Biblical sculptures, with candles and pews destined for dedicated worshippers part of the usual furniture, with colourful stained glass windows depicting an amplitude of Bible stories covering almost every wall. In the middle of the room stands 23 year old Jake Bugg (only slightly elevated) and his guitar- no band this time- in front of a gathering of people who are peppered in between large columns and refreshment stands. The whole thing seems almost evangelical.

Jake Bugg- who “hasn’t finished practising all his new songs”- opens with the album’s title track ‘Hearts That Strain’ before treating the audience to stripped back favourites from his now expansive back catalogue. Songs like ‘Trouble Town’, ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’ and ‘Simple As This’ encase songs from his new album, including ‘Southern Rain’ and his latest single ‘How Soon The Dawn’, reminding the awe-struck audience that this is an album release show. Bugg takes time to tune his guitar and ponder over how to play old tracks and songs straight from the studio; he hadn’t quite started touring the album yet.

The highlight of the set was ‘Broken’, a song from his first self-titled record. This came as no surprise as it always has a huge live appeal. Bugg played and sang as his audience sang with him- it felt almost gospel. The whole performance felt special and somewhat spiritual, if you will.

What struck me most about the event was how intimate it felt. How unpolished and imperfect it was, which made it feel extraordinarily special. Bugg has refined his performance, grown comfortable and confident performing solo- proving he definitely doesn’t need a band- and has stripped back to his roots. He revisits and reimagines the acoustic roots which made him famous in the first place. Interestingly, the room was filled with an older audience, showing Bugg’s mass appeal. He can easily draw a crowd of teenage fans at Reading Festival, but can also attract middle aged concert goers and seemingly ‘unlikely’ fans at a midweek concert in a church. That’s a real skill.

Jake Bugg, All Saints Church for Banquet Records, 31/08/2017 (Live Review)